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Sunday saw some dramatic North American VALORANT Champions Tour action, as the first set of elimination matches for the VCT  playoffs lower bracket kicked off with XSET vs. Pittsburg Knights and Sentinels vs. Version 1. XSET came out on top of the former, while Version1 won the former, bringing these teams one step closer to the lower bracket finals.

XSET eliminate Knights from VCT NA playoffs

Going into the first game of Sunday’s elimination matches, it was somewhat unclear who would come out the victor. XSET entered the playoffs as the third seed of Group A, while Knights were Group B’s fourth seed. Both teams were knocked into the lower bracket by teams that are considered to be at the top of NA VALORANT; XSET lost to OpTic Gaming in the first round, while Knights fell to Cloud9.

Though XSET managed to take the first two rounds of the first map, Split, Knights were quick to catch up. The game stayed fairly evenly matched after the third round, with neither team gaining more than a round or two of a lead. But towards the end of the game, XSET started gaining momentum. They strung five consecutive rounds together before Knights managed to take one for themselves, but at that point it was too late. XSET took the next round, and the game, 13-8.

The next game brought Knights and XSET to Breeze. Knights started in the lead, but it didn’t take long for their opponents to not only catch up, but pass them by. XSET claimed Breeze 13-7, sweeping Knights 2-0 and sending them home for the duration of VCT Stage 1. XSET will face Luminosity in round two of the lower bracket on March 24.

Version1 live to fight another day

The lower bracket match between Sentinels and Version1 was shocking to just about everyone it seemed. Even the official V1 Twitter account questioned how we got here on Sunday before the match started.

Going into the match, casters and fans alike were fairly confident that V1 would be the ones to survive and face Cloud9 based on both teams’ recent performances. Despite winning Masters 2 Reykjavík in 2021, Sentinels have had a shaky 2022 season. They finished the group stage 3-2, but still managed to make it to playoffs.

Meanwhile, Version1 could do no wrong during the group stage. They were undefeated in Group A, which also included Sentinels. Thanks to this, they were a favorite going into playoffs. But Luminosity surprised everyone when they beat V1 2-1 in the quarterfinals, knocking the formerly untouchable team into the lower bracket. Version1’s fall cemented the reality that only one of these two titans would have a chance at moving forward in the playoffs.

Though V1 were the clear favorites, Sentinels surprised by showing off their old form on the first map. They ultimately overwhelmed V1, taking Haven 13-7. The second map, Ascent was much more back and forth. Version1 took an early lead, but Sentinels were able to catch up bit by bit. During round 15, V1 started to take the lead again, going up nine to six. But again, Sentinels refused to sit back and let them take the game. Though the rounds weren’t necessarily clean, Sentinels managed to keep bridging the score gap, staying within a round or two of V1. During round 20 it looked like Sentinels might finally tie things up, but instead they saw another three rounds slip through their fingers, despite in-game leader Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan’s best efforts. Version1 took the map 13-9.

This bloody showdown between two of North America’s best would come to an end on Fracture. Sentinels and Version1 traded rounds pretty evenly at first, hitting the half tied 6-6. But as the game went on, Version1 gained the momentum they needed to finish things off. Though ShahZaM again put up a fight, V1 ultimately took the map 13-8.  They will progress to the next round where they’ll face Cloud9 on March 24.

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